China Food

In depth study | interpretation of different vitality forest: success and hidden worries

the core competitiveness of the consumer industry is not products, but brands.
In the wave of new consumption, vitality forest is undoubtedly the first echelon. If calculated according to the latest valuation of US $15 billion, it ranks first among a number of new consumer enterprises. In our previous articles on the criticism of the current new consumer industry《
From the voice of marketing, which has been questioned in the market at the beginning, to the representative of Productism who has been praised by more and more stereotyped recently; we have seen too many positive or negative polarization voices. Many executives of Yuanqi forest, including founder Tang Binsen, also continue to speak to the market, from the speech of Yabuli forum to the screen brushing article in November Dialogue with Tang Binsen: rich man, pirate and product manager, but we still think it’s not that good.
First of all, we highly recognize the success of Yuanqi forest and its status as a top student representing new consumption. We also agree with many of Tang Binsen’s founders, including “attention invariants” However, we still have some different views, even different from Yuanqi forest’s understanding of itself; this includes our interpretation of the success of Yuanqi forest and some hidden worries about Yuanqi forest.
We try to give our understanding in this study. According to our usual practice, we have no intention to state the historical evolution of the development of Yuanqi forest company, describe Tang Binsen’s personal legendary history, or analyze “techniques” such as marketing play But return to our purpose: the only moat of the enterprise is the understanding of user value, and only the user’s consumption behavior can really define the core of the product.

Why are the products of Yuanqi forest successful?

Although there are probably thousands of interpretations of the success of Yuanqi forest products, including the use of erythritol you have seen 100%, the supremacy of Productism you have probably seen, the growing demand for health of ethereal consumers, convenience stores in channel strategy, dividends from the rise of channels, various new playing methods in marketing strategy, and enterprise business strategy Geographic arbitrage and Internet style rapid iteration and testing, etc.
But we still feel that in the stacked and tiled interpretation of various elements, it is still a little short of the truth.
On the one hand, geographic arbitrage is good, and game companies’ ideas for data testing and rapid iteration of products are good; it belongs to business ideas, but these ideas are not special, and countless companies are doing it: Geographic arbitrage, to put it simply, is to “copy” In the early days, almost all domestic Internet companies were mature copy to China versions of the American model; in a more advanced sense, the consulting industry has been talking about looking for “best practice” in the industry The more important problem is that these ideas are implemented in every product made by Yuanqi forest, and as we can see, among the dozen or even more products made based on the same ideas, some are not successful, some are still successful, and some are unprecedented successful; what we want to explore is the product dimension of final success and why;
On the other hand, although Yuanqi forest once said that it has caught up with the dividends of convenience store channels, it can only be said that it follows the basic laws of the beverage industry, unlike some stupid new consumption. It is clear that the basic plate of the industry is offline and stubbornly in e-commerce. However, even those who have only been in the consumer industry for one day should know that although channel forward is very important, channel forward There is still a long way to go before the mobile sales are generated. No company can guarantee that the mobile sales will be generated when the channel moves forward. The key to the mobile sales depends on the active choice of consumers. This is also why many new consumer enterprises also do convenience store channels, but with little effect. Even a large number of industry giants such as Nestle, cola, nongnong Shan Quan and Wahaha have advantages in all channels Obviously, there are still so many products that can’t be sold at all. Relying on channel dividends must not be the decisive factor.
Moreover, if you have seen our previous research on “technology” such as channels and marketing strategies, we never believe in “technology” The strategy in the dimension of can become the core driving force for the success of a product; we don’t see anything revolutionary and far beyond the whole industry today: enterprises that do badly have their own bad, but successful enterprises are in “technology” There must be convergence in the dimension of; as Tang Binsen once mentioned, being upright is strange: don’t always think about opportunism. The tactical play is in line with the industry-leading company. You can do what others do.
However, the difference in the understanding of user value between different enterprises can be the difference between heaven and earth. This is why we put forward earlier that large companies such as P & G and Coca Cola have made so many failed products with the same set of channels and marketing methodology for making their most successful products, regardless of the success of products made by large enterprises or start-ups The core of merit must be an accurate understanding of user value.
So we went back to the product.
First of all, the non nutritional insight that consumers are becoming more and more concerned about health is as meaningless as saying that people want to live more and more. There are too many slots to say. I don’t know whether the post-80s and post-90s are soft when they write in the report that they care more about health than their parents’ generation; What really moves consumers is not health at all.
How many consumers today can really say what is the harm of sugar to human health? I’m not talking about investment banks, consultants, Internet manufacturers who have received the best education and work in the best office buildings in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, let alone food practitioners; I’m talking about a large number of ordinary passers-by who have contributed 8 billion of forest sales. Secondly, even among the most educated people, the acceptance of low-carbon diet in China is not high. Just look at the low-carbon diet research of the lancet, an international well-known medical journal in 2018, which has been ridiculed by many professionals.
0 sugar is the core cognition of most ordinary people. First, lose weight (90%); Secondly, antioxidation (anti-aging); It has little to do with health. Just like a young man, if I tell my friend, I recommend a sugar free drink, drink away from diabetes, coronary heart disease, reduce the burden of the liver, prevent osteoporosis. Your friends don’t look at you like monsters?
So, has it been told countless times that the cost of erythritol is 70-80 times higher than that of traditional sugar substitutes? This hard and fast story, which turns an obscure chemical term erythritol raw material into a widely discussed hot word, has been repeated countless times: at the beginning, it was told by Yuanqi forest, Subsequently, it has been cited by numerous studies on Yuanqi forest; It has also become the standard explanation of “vitality forest defeats sugar free Cola”: erythritol’s victory over aspartame and acesulfame, and the victory of Productism. But we have a different judgment, which we think is probably not the core reason.
Why do you say that?
Let’s first look at the first successful product of Yuanqi forest: burning tea.
If you are a person who has been paying attention to China’s beverage market, you should have heard a myth many years ago: as China, which has always been known as the prevalence of tea culture, the development of pure tea ready to drink products in the Chinese market is extremely slow. Compared with Japan next door, Japan’s sugar free pure tea products account for ~ 80% of the whole tea category; Therefore, on the one hand, I believe that Chinese people love to drink tea. On the other hand, I see that the Japanese market has been verified and a large number of enterprises have participated in the end. I think pure tea drinks are a great opportunity. Almost none of the players, including giant cola, Nestle, nongnongshanquan, Master Kang and uni president, have succeeded; Up to now, all sugar free pure tea in China accounts for less than 10% of the whole tea beverage market.
It is true that Chinese people are the birthplace of tea culture, but how much do Chinese people really like drinking tea? We feel we need to make a huge question mark; What is the best tea drink sold in China for so many years? It’s iced black tea. Even though Master Kang’s iced black tea brand is aging today, it still occupies the first place in the market share of the whole tea beverage, not counting the competitive unified iced black tea. Do people who drink iced black tea drink it because they like tea? Obviously not, what is the core, or beverage tea. Suntory oolong tea, the representative of success in the Japanese market, has been in China for so many years, but it is still tepid and unable to break into the mainstream population.
To this end, burning tea provides consumers with a solution: Oolong tea with sugar substitutes. In short, it is the beverage version of Suntory oolong tea. This is the first step of user cognition. Most consumers do not like real tea, but drink tea. Similarly, it is also the reason for the success of tea.
But what else is there?
Our answer is——   Word “burning”:
Although Tang Binsen mentioned the word “burning” in an interview, he said proudly, “it is a very bold act for us to dare to put such a large Chinese character on the bottle, which is the promotion and transmission of Chinese culture and the sale of Chinese characters to the world”; But we think, obviously, this is actually a typical enterprise thinking dimension, not the idea of consumers. First of all, not to mention, the domestic market is already full of a large number of beverage products with obvious Chinese characters on the packaging; No ordinary consumers will have any special emotional reaction when they see a product with Chinese characters. They will walk into a hotel with you. You won’t exclaim. My God, there is a bed. You expect these things, which can hardly cause any emotional fluctuations; Not to mention the national pride associated with Chinese characters.
What does “burning” mean for consumers? If you paid attention to burning tea very early, rather than after the capital came out of the circle, you should probably know that the core of burning tea first became popular in social media such as microblog, little red book: it makes many people feel that the word “burning” is related to the potential consciousness of “burning fat” in cognition, linking “burning tea” and “burning fat”.
Tea has always been vaguely bound with concepts such as oil scraping in China, including this year’s oil Mandarin, which was suddenly brought to fire by Naixue’s tea, that is, it is an oil scraping artifact. The binding of the word “burning” and tea has strongly improved the subconscious of burning fat. After erythritol was brought to the fire today, it was exploded by many nutrition experts, which may cause intestinal discomfort and diarrhea in some people. This was originally a point used by many critics to attack the vitality forest, but what experts don’t know is that it was regarded as a great advantage long before the principle was revealed:
In a highly praised comment in Xiaohong book in April 2018, some people said that they had diarrhea after drinking the burning tea party. Many people’s feedback below is not, God, I won’t drink it; But: Yes! It worked so well that I bought a box immediately!; Today, there are many similar praise strategies for burning tea to help defecate in little red books. (of course, this is not to say that most of them drink for diarrhea, but the hint of burning fat is the absolute core driving force); This is what we have always stressed that the user’s consumption behavior is the key to really defining the product core.
This is the two core reasons for the success of burning tea: according to the latest market data, burning tea has ranked second in the sugar free tea market, second only to nongnongshan spring.
After burning tea, in March 2018, Yuanqi forest bubble water went online. Yuanqi forest has officially opened its dominance of the whole sugar free beverage market.
In an interview with Tang Binsen in November, later finance asked a question about the sales difference between burning tea and vitality forest:
Burning tea is the second in the industry, but it is still 10 times worse than the sales of Yuanqi forest. Why?
Tang Binsen’s answer is that the category of tea burning is small: the subtext is that the category ceiling determines the sales difference between tea burning and vitality forest.
I don’t know whether this answer has convinced everyone, but it doesn’t seem to convince us.
First of all, we try to understand the category differences referred to by Tang Binsen:
If the category corresponding to burning tea and Yuanqi forest refers to the tea beverage market and carbonated beverage market: in 2020, China’s soft beverage market, excluding the packaged drinking water ranking first, accounts for 37.64% of the market share; Tea beverage market ranked second, accounting for 19.64%; More than the carbonated beverage market ranked third, accounting for 15.26%. This is obviously not true. The tea beverage market exceeds that of carbonated drinks.
If the category corresponding to burning tea and vitality forest refers to the traditional sugar free tea represented by Oriental leaves and Suntory, and the sugar free gas bubble water market represented by sugar free cola and Paris water. Then the markets of the two categories are very small, and the gap is still small. The admission of vitality forest has almost changed the situation of the whole industry.
Therefore, we can’t always mention the sugar free tea burning, which refers to the sugar free tea market; When referring to the sparkling water of Yuanqi forest, it refers to the whole carbonated beverage market with sugar + without sugar. This lack of comparison that is not in one dimension is bound to be untenable.
Then why is the success of vitality forest far more than burning tea? The answer is neither category ceiling nor erythritol. What is it?
We think the answer is actually 0 sugar, 0 fat, 0 calorie. Don’t be disappointed. Our understanding of this is 0 sugar, 0 fat and 0 calorie   Some are different.
Yuanqi forest is a sugar free expert, which has been said countless times; 0 sugar, 0 fat and 0 calorie have been talked about countless times. But we think the more important logic has been ignored.
Although Yuanqi forest likes to say that it beat the international beverage giant Coca Cola in the matter of sugar free drinks. But we think, first of all, vitality forest is not actually robbing the sugar free Cola business. It may rob the sugar coke business, the juice business, the sugar tea business, and of course, the sugar free Cola business.
What is the difference? The market substitution relationship finally formed is only the result of the final presentation, but it is not the reason for the formation. In other words, we do not think that the decision-making process of an ordinary consumer to buy vitality forest is due to the substitution after comparing the advantages and disadvantages of sugar free cola and vitality forest.
Is sugar free Cola 0 sugar, 0 fat and 0 calorie? Certainly.

Then why did Yuanqi forest win? The answer given by Yuanqi forest itself and almost all the analysis is the victory of erythritol vs aspartame / Acesulfame; It is the victory that Yuanqi forest dares to use the best raw materials and the victory of Productism.
But we think it may not be, based on the following points:
The first point is to burn tea as we said above:
Is burning tea 0 sugar, 0 fat and 0 calorie? Certainly.
Burning tea is not only 0 sugar, 0 fat, 0 calorie, but also erythritol; It is also a work of the supremacy of vitality forest Productism. The 10 times sales difference, which we have analyzed above, obviously can not be explained by category differences. The market scale of tea drinks exceeds that of carbonated drinks.
The second point is the global market development of sugar free Cola:
Although the proportion of sugar free Cola in the Chinese market is very low, according to the survey, it is only about 3.4%; But let’s take a look at the American market. The overall market share of sugar free Cola in the American market has reached 37.5%; Diet coke, which is said to be “extremely poor in taste” because of aspartame and lost to vitality forest, accounts for 7.5% of the entire carbonated beverage market share in the United States; What is this concept? Coca Cola’s arch rival, Pepsi, which has always won Coca Cola in the blind taste test, has a market share of only 7.8%, with a gap of only 0.3%; Even in 2010-2014, diet Coke without sugar, which you claimed was completely ineffective because of aspartame taste, surpassed Pepsi, which has always won in taste, and ranked second in market share. This is not included. Zero sugar cola, which also uses aspartame and acemi, has a market share of about 2.4%.
The same story happened in Britain, Europe and even Japan; Sugar free Cola has a market share of more than 40%, and these use the combination formula of aspartame + Acesulfame + stevia, etc.
What do you mean? You told me that people all over the world, regardless of the Americas, Europe, including many developed countries in Asia, buy and drink sugar free cola with aspartame and acesulfame on a large scale; Only people in the Chinese market have a keen sense of taste that is absolutely ahead of all mankind. They can drink a huge taste difference in one mouthful and think it is completely unacceptable, which seems contrary to biology.
More importantly, the Chinese market, as one of the few growing markets of Coca Cola in the world, has no power to push the sugar free version. Almost countless blind taste tests in history tell us that it is difficult for consumers to drink Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, diet coke, sugar free coke and fiber coke. So we don’t think it’s erythritol vs aspartame.
What’s that?
Let’s think about a question:
Yuanqi forest is a sugar free beverage with erythritol. It has been said countless times,
But it seems that almost no one has asked one thing, that is, “Why say 0 fat”?
Is there any drink with fat? In the whole soft drink market, except milk drinks, all categories, including high sugar carbonated drinks, high sugar tea drinks, high sugar fruit juice, high sugar functional drinks and sugar free drinks, are counted as one. Almost all soft drinks are natural and do not contain any fat.
In short, this is the natural characteristic of almost all products. Whether you say it or not, it is 0 fat: but this is exactly what we think is crucial. Similarly, 0 card is also a truth. Since except milk drinks, all drinks with 0 sugar and non-0 sugar are 0 fat; Then all 0 sugar drinks must be 0 calories.
We believe that it is these parts that seem to be the state the obvious that make the vitality forest crush all the sugar free drinks before it – more than sugar free cola and more than burning tea. This is the victory of the concept of “0 sugar, 0 fat, 0 calorie” vs “sugar free beverage”, not erythritol vs aspartame. Even whether it appeared in the form of bubble water at the beginning is not so important.
What was the last product to use the state the obvious concept to achieve success?
It is also a Weiquan lactic acid bacteria that sells the concept of “0 fat”.
When Yakult has occupied the first place in the market share of lactic acid bacteria for many years, how can it break through the market by making lactic acid bacteria products? Weiquan’s plan is: while promoting intestinal health, it broke the concept of “0 fat” and quickly occupied the market; It ranks second only to yangleduo in the market, ahead of Mengniu Yili. In fact, although Yakult, the first in the industry, did not show 0 fat; However, all lactic acid bacteria brands, including yangleduo and Mengniu Youyi C, are fat free 0 fat products, which is the common feature of the whole category and is not the unique feature of Weiquan products at all.
Of course, Weiquan changed its strategy after being questioned because of high sugar content after 2013, but it has been said later. In this year’s new consumption, the adoption of a cow and the publicity of listening to music and holidays for cows seem to convey a better feeding environment and create better milk, but in fact, almost all cows are raised in this way; Heineken beer entered the American market decades ago and presented the way of brewing in advertising, so it firmly occupied the psychological positioning of brewing masters; But in fact, Heineken shows the basic operation that all beer companies are using. However, whether a product has a certain feature is not the key. The key is whether it is used as a core element to communicate with consumers.
This is also the core point we want to express:
In the whole consumer goods industry, it must be concept driven in essence, and concept is realized based on accurate user value understanding.
Any product is composed of many different elements. When an enterprise develops a product, its cognition of the product is likely to be completely different from that of consumers. Therefore, for enterprises, the most important thing is to clarify the core concept of communication with consumers:
Or shampoo industry example:
The concept of haifeisi is to remove dandruff, but can’t you remove dandruff with Piao Rou, Pan Ting and Sassoon? Will dandruff fly on the road? No;
The same is true; The concept of Piao Rou is softness. Do you use dove and Haifei’s hair will be stiff? No.
To put it another way, I have a formula for shampoo products today. It must have n functions at the same time, and it can even have as many as it wants; However, the market-oriented concept of products that eventually win the market and succeed will only be very clear, and there is only one.
In 2016, jinmailang launched “cool and white” drinking water; In this drinking water market, which is n times more rigid than the beverage market, we have torn a hole and achieved sales of nearly 5 billion in four years; Is a better proof. Many analysts are talking about what is the value of UHT sterilization technology? Drop it, no one cares.
Consumers buy the concept of liangbaikai. Just like when you go shopping with your mother, your mother asks you to buy a bottle of mineral water. You bring a bottle of pure water back from the convenience store. Your mother will never scold you and say why you bought pure water and didn’t buy mineral water. She will default that these two are the same thing. But if you bring back a bottle of cold boiled water, your mother will think that somehow water is better, not because it is really better to drink, not because she knows UHT, and she doesn’t want to know whether this cold boiled water is boiled or UHT sterilized. Because the concept of liangbaikai is a good thing in her existing cognition, consumers don’t have time to use their brains with you.
I don’t believe that consumers can drink different pure water / mineral water / cooked water (of course, some people will say they can drink it); Just like we don’t believe that Pepsi Cola has become a sugar free Cola in the U.S. market that exceeds the market share of Pepsi Cola, only Chinese consumers feel that the drinking is out of the world, and the vitality forest is better than sugar free cola.
Pepsi Cola and Coca Cola have been involved in blind testing for a hundred years, which is the same as sugar free cola; Pepsi Cola is always better to drink, and it is always in a failed market competition. Therefore, our view is that consumers’ choice of vitality forest is by no means the victory of erythritol vs aspartame. The success of bubble water in Yuanqi forest, except for the variable “0 sugar”, is clearly not a variable at all – those common “0 fat, 0 calorie” are the more key factors.
A product with “0 sugar, 0 fat and 0 card” and a “sugar free product” are essentially “0 sugar, 0 fat and 0 card”, but in the cognition of consumers, this is the difference between heaven and earth. This is by no means the insight you ask by the focus group.
However, don’t get me wrong. We are not trying to say that products are not important. Concept driven is by no means a derogatory term. Concept driven does not mean sacrificing product quality, let alone cheating users; on the contrary, it requires high user insight, and the concept needs strong product solution capabilities to support.
It tells you about the concept of making a better looking / younger / more fashionable / generation Z. in short, today you said that you want to make a whitening toothpaste. I’m not sure if you can make a better new solution, but I know it’s OK; but if you tell me that you want to make a younger toothpaste, I really have a question mark on my face.
So how to explain: Yuanqi forest tells about the inedible and ultimately destroyed products made under the guidance of external consulting companies, so Yuanqi forest is made later; and what Tang Binsen highly praised and Duan Yongping once said: if consumer goods companies pay too much attention to marketing and do not pay attention to products, there will be no future.
First of all, Duan Yongping’s sentence is completely correct; but if you look carefully, this is a missing comparison: if you pay too much attention to marketing and don’t pay attention to products, there will be no future. In fact, it says that enterprises can’t walk on one leg and never despise products because of marketing, but it’s not teaching you to pay more attention to products than marketing, or vice versa; and this is most of the market Enterprises are often in a state of, either marketing is the king, flow thinking, and products are in a mess; or they excessively belittle the value of marketing and think that good products are enough. But a really excellent enterprise must see the value of both at the same time.
I believe everyone will agree: both Duan Yongping’s personal step-by-step work and his disciples’ oppo and vivo are excellent companies in marketing; at the marketing level, oppo and vivo think they surpass rivals Xiaomi and Huawei. It is more dangerous to mistakenly think that Duan Yongping’s sentence is a person who lacks judgment, because it makes people with marketing thinking believe in the value of products It’s relatively easy; but it’s not so easy for people who think about products to believe in the value of brands.
Secondly, the story that Yuanqi forest destroyed those inedible products under the guidance of the research company can only show that they are indeed a batch of unqualified products, and the probability is really difficult to swallow. In the past, there were many such products in the market, which often make people wonder how they passed the internal test and dared to push them to the market, Of course, such products are absolutely unqualified and should not be sold to consumers. Today, many enterprises that follow up after the vigorous forest fire still make a lot of inedible products; However, we believe that if Yuanqi forest can use aspartame / Acesulfame / Stevia or any one or more of the six generations of sweeteners to develop a product that is not difficult to drink and a product close to sugar free Cola in taste, it will also achieve today’s results under the concept of “0 sugar, 0 fat and 0 calorie”. On the other hand, if it is the same formula as Yuanqi forest, but it was only launched with sugar free gas in water instead of the concept of “0 sugar, 0 fat and 0 card”, it will be a huge question mark whether it can achieve today’s results.
Because this is the victory of the concept of “0 sugar, 0 fat and 0 calorie” vs “sugar free drink”, not the victory of “erythritol” vs “aspartame”. The impact of the core communication information undertaken by the product concept on the user’s mind must be far more than the product formula. This is precisely one part of our hidden worries about the vitality forest.

Success and hidden worries of Yuanqi forest

As a top student representative of new consumption, Yuanqi forest has a lot to learn from new consumers, but we also feel that there are some hidden worries.
We don’t want to put too much ink on the operational dimension, so we don’t want to repeat the “technology” of production / Channel / marketing / products, but we want to talk more about the concept:
  • The experience concept of “keeping integrity and being strange”
We think that vitality forest ranks first, and what is most worth learning is the extraordinary concept of integrity put forward by Tang Binsen, which we mentioned at the beginning. In short, don’t be opportunistic. Keep up with the most leading company tactically. You can do what others do. More importantly, respect common sense and don’t violate the basic laws.
Today, a large number of entrepreneurs, investors and platforms like to talk about new and change. Many start-ups say that our channel playing method is also new, our marketing means is also new, and our products are also new. Anyway, everything is new. The actual result is that not only is it not new, but everyone is becoming more and more the same: they are all live broadcasting, e-commerce, grass planting, KOL, IP co branding, design driven, national tide and youth; Extremely stereotyped. When everyone is jointly signed, IP and XX, there is no differentiation. Human cognition of things depends on the relative value rather than the absolute value. When the threshold is continuously raised, it will not cause any fluctuation. Even if there is no differentiation, many strategies simply violate the business law. For example, the basic plate of food and beverage is offline, but the e-commerce, especially the wine e-commerce, has only single digits; For example, brand awareness of consumer goods is obviously the most important, but it just spends a lot of budget on traffic and promotion.
On the contrary, as a top student in the first echelon of new consumption, Yuanqi forest is the most unlikely enterprise to “new consumption”:

80% of the sales volume of Yuanqi forest comes from offline. The system establishment and management of dealers and the depth of channels are in line with those of traditional consumer companies. Coca Cola and nongnongshanquan do the freezer, too;

A large number of outdoor advertisements, titles of variety shows, the proportion of brand advertising investment, and marketing strategies are also keeping pace with traditional consumer enterprises, rather than plunging into the so-called new media like new consumer enterprises;

Product design is also more user demand driven and does not blindly pursue design driven. Compared with the main beauty economy, the design style is more advanced than one new consumption, which seems to be incompatible;

Including self built factories and paying attention to R & D and supply chain; Are respecting the most basic common sense of the industry, which is extremely valuable.
The world always expects to hear a miraculous story and hope to have something similar to the martial arts secret script in martial arts novels; But there are no martial arts secrets in the real world. Only 99% of the people who have been arrogant and stupid have solid basic skills in business. As we mentioned in the article on new consumption, and also advocated by Tang Binsen, Amazon Bezos puts forward that the significance of paying attention to those invariants in business history is far greater than variables.
  • Focus on essence rather than form
Although we all say that the victory of vitality forest is the victory of Internet thinking vs. traditional industries, and the dimensionality reduction blow of game companies to traditional industries.
But when the outside world talks about Internet thinking, game thinking and digital means. Tang Binsen said that the only real Internet thinking is to pay attention to user value. This is very consistent with our previous view: the only barrier for enterprises is the understanding of user value.
All other so-called “Internet thinking” are essentially just Internet tools. Internet thinking does not mean that you get a lot of Internet tools, a pile of numbers and what traffic. For digitization, what Tang Binsen said is, don’t deify digitization and don’t blow it. Digitization is neither mysterious nor magical. It is just a means to help you better discover user value.
In the face of a variety of concepts, what interests e-commerce and what private domain traffic; What c2m is highly respected; Tang Binsen’s advice is to be vigilant against these things, complex concepts and terms. This is what we have always stressed that 99% of the new concepts are meaningless. All this is worth pondering for those new consumer enterprises who adhere to the pseudo new concept.
So, it seems that the vitality forest with excellent character and learning, in our view, what are its hidden worries?
The first hidden worry is that Yuanqi forest is not good enough in brand building.
In our previous analysis of the whole consumer industry, we put forward two core viewpoints, namely:
The only moat of the enterprise is the understanding of user value. The only core competitiveness of enterprises in the consumer industry: it must be the brand.
In a recent exchange with an ex McKinsey colleague, I was asked a good question: how do you view the relationship between the two?
After thinking about it, I don’t think what I said before is accurate. The relationship between the two is not an invisible and explicit relationship, or even a mutual premise or derived relationship. Even for an enterprise, it may be a lack of existence.
Specifically, the logical relationship between the two is:
The understanding of user value is a more fundamental element, which determines whether an enterprise can become a successful business; We have borrowed the concept of leverage to explain that the process of enterprise operation is a comprehensive presentation using different levers: capital lever, talent lever, marketing lever, technology lever, product lever, supply chain lever and so on. Among all operating levers, the most essential and core lever is “understanding of user value”. On the one hand, it determines what nature is under the appearance of enterprise products. On the other hand, it is the bottom lever that can affect all other operating levers.
What is the brand? I think brand is the lever that can produce the greatest torque among all other operating levers except “user value understanding”: it means that it is the most effective and can pry the maximum value. For the consumer industry, the role of brand leverage is so strong that it can even make up for some when the “user value understanding” is not so accurate; The precise and punctual “user value understanding” can greatly amplify this value, establish core competitiveness, and enable enterprises to evolve from successful business to great business.
This only exists in the consumer industry, because the consumer industry, unlike the technology industry, has technical barriers; Unlike the Internet industry, there are scale barriers; Unlike the energy industry, there are resource barriers; etc。 The only barrier in the consumer industry is the brand barrier.
We use some representative enterprises to make you better understand:
Globally, the most successful consumer enterprises must also have “accurate user value understanding” + “excellent brand ability” — representative enterprises: P & G, lululemon, etc;
We think we have excellent brand ability, but there are some deviations in the level of “user value understanding” – representative enterprises: three and a half tons, Jiang Xiaobai, etc;
The success depends on accurate “user value understanding”, but it is still lacking in brand construction. One of the typical representative enterprises is the protagonist of today’s article: vitality forest.
In a recent interview with Tang Binsen later, finance and economics asked a question, “the brand core of coke is happiness. What is the brand core of vitality forest?”, Tang Binsen gave the answer: “plain is true”, and even gave an advertising idea on the spot.
I believe this is not true; At least before Tang Binsen gave this answer, we didn’t see the brand trying to deliver this message in all the past brand advertisements of Yuanqi forest. However, whether it is “plain or true”, we have found many serious problems:
First, and most seriously, as mentioned above, Yuanqi forest still does not have a clear and unique brand core, which is a very important element of the brand and the key to brand differentiation. The first mover advantage of the product must be based on the functional level, but the longer-term positioning that distinguishes a brand from other brands must be the emotional level. We have mentioned many examples of Coca Cola and Pepsi, but before, we were more used to demonstrate that the core competitiveness of the consumer industry must be the brand: Pepsi blind test products have better taste, which can not shake the position of Coca Cola. But here, we want to change a little perspective: Although Pepsi Cola failed to beat Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola still accounts for 7.8% of carbonated drinks in the United States today, while Coca Cola accounts for 17.9%, that is to say, Pepsi’s sales volume has reached 44% of that of Coca Cola, which has robbed a lot of market share; Unlike the Internet, the consumer industry is not a winner takes all market; Not a market where the head company occupies 90% of the market share, this difference is crucial.
Today, many followers of Yuanqi forest don’t drink well, so they haven’t threatened Yuanqi forest. However, it is actually not difficult to smooth out this product difference. FMCG itself is not a business with high R & D threshold. Some giants have even started to gain the recognition of users. Therefore, when the product differences are smoothed out, it is inevitable that the vitality forest will lose some users, which is the basic law of the industry. The core that can maintain user loyalty must be brand value recognition, not products. However, it is a pity that today’s brand of Yuanqi forest still has not found a clear brand core.
Secondly, the past brand advertisements of Yuanqi forest show several worrying characteristics:
The first is that advertising only has the selling points at the functional level, while the emotional level is missing. This is faced with the fact that when “0 sugar, 0 fat and 0 card” becomes the standard configuration, the product differences are also smoothed out. Although the category founders can maintain a certain first mover advantage, the brand differentiation will be smaller and smaller;
The second is that the information transmitted by the brand is extremely messy. We have seen very messy information in different brand advertisements published by Yuanqi forest in the past. There is no unified spiritual proposition between different brand advertisements; Many people are talking about different emotions; As we mentioned before, the core of brand building is the continuous transmission of the same value proposition: for example, the spiritual core of skii is independent women, changing destiny; Then this one won’t change. But doesn’t it mean that the people who buy skii are independent women? Of course not. Ladies can buy it, aunts can buy it, and the student party can buy it; But my brand proposition will not change. Brand can’t because my target group is young people, so I can say everything about young people: be brave today, have fun tomorrow, have fun the day after tomorrow, and XXX the day after tomorrow. This is of no help to brand building. There is no equal sign between exposure and brand value. If you don’t have your own value proposition and young people rub everything, consumers will eventually resent your hard rubbing.
Third, the spiritual proposition of the brand should be the extension of the functional proposition. The function of Haifei silk is to remove dandruff, so it makes you more confident; Olay function advocates skin care, so you are not afraid of age. More importantly, the spirit advocates finding points that resonate with users. But let’s look at Yuanqi forest. For example, we found a group of commercial vertical media and sent countless similar advertisements “dare you”, which is a typical non-user thinking advertisement. It is telling a business story of Yuanqi forest challenging Coca Cola Giants: why should an ordinary girl who pursues drama and stars with a monthly salary of 8K care whether you challenge Coca Cola; This advertising perspective is too corporate thinking. We can understand that this is the corporate vision of Tang Binsen or Yuanqi forest, but it can’t resonate with users at all; Just like the talk show conference, when only inside joke is left, it is when it starts to alienate from users; Another example is vitality forest, which emphasizes the word “vitality” in many advertisements, which is also an operation that people can’t understand, just as nongnongshan spring emphasizes farmers; Advertising either from the product function, or from the spiritual proposition to find user resonance, from the name is what operation? The result is that although this is a brand advertisement, it is no different from the exposure of only brushing the sense of existence without key message.
The second hidden worry is to guard against falling into the trap of pseudo Productism.
We can see that Yuanqi forest has always emphasized the supremacy of Productism:
“Our company is a product manager with absolute voice”;
“We are the first to dare to use erythritol, which is extremely expensive, regardless of cost”,
“Yuanqi forest is one of the beverage enterprises in China where the cost of the contents of the bottle is greater than that of the bottle”,
In the recent late interview, I was asked, what is the core of product success? Tang Binsen replied that “in fact, it is a good raw material that dare to be used by opponents”.
We understand the background of Yuanqi forest’s words – “China’s previous beverage enterprises were all channel kings”, “traditional consumer enterprises were all production perspective, did not care about users’ likes and did not give users choices” → “but now is the time for the market to reward people who make products with good intentions”.
However, since the goal of Yuanqi forest is the Chinese version of “Coca Cola”, it is to become a global beverage giant. Then, it is obviously not enough to stay in such a perspective. Because China’s traditional consumer enterprises do not do well enough, it does not mean that it is enough as long as they do better than them.      
Although Coca Cola has always been the target giant of Yuanqi forest, I think if we want to select the most representative enterprise in the consumer industry around the world, P & G with a market value of $350 billion is more worthy of learning and research. It is also a textbook for the whole consumer industry. From 2013 to today, we can see all kinds of sensational reports in China almost every year: for one moment, P & G will lose, for another, P & G will decline, and for another, P & G will be abandoned by the times. But we still look at the data. In 2012, P & G ranked 19th in the global market value, and in 2020, P & G ranked 20th in the global market value. In a bad voice, it almost stood still for 10 years.
Today, Yuanqi forest believes that many ideas put forward according to the characteristics of the game industry, which are not available in the consumer industry, have been put forward and implemented by P & G nearly dozens or even hundreds of years ago:
First of all, taking users as the core is not the Internet spirit in the strict sense in theory; Nor was it invented by Internet companies. As early as the 1920s, nearly 100 years ago, P & G proposed to “focus on consumers” “As one of the company’s core strategies, it is only in the process of industry alternation that the Internet industry has gained a higher voice. Therefore, the user as the core proposed by the Internet company has become a more extensive statement today. But in essence, changing a word is meaningless. Consumers are the only boss and P & G has practiced the theory for nearly a century.
In the last few years of P & G’s development in China, in fact, it was more a matter of enterprise management than the company’s strategy. Employees began to guess what the boss was thinking, not what the consumers were thinking. With the boss’s will as the core, when the highest strategy on which the company depended was abandoned, the business would have problems. If we say that until today, China’s traditional drink It is expected that the enterprise is still the king of channel, but in the whole consumer industry, the concept of consumer demand is the only highest purpose, which has actually existed for a hundred years. On day 1, which I first started working many years ago, I accepted such an enterprise concept. Therefore, by 2021, I was surprised to hear that the employees in the consumer industry still have the idea of channel being the king. I always wondered Who gives the confidence that when the channel moves forward, it can magically produce dynamic sales. The lesson of Wahaha does not happen after the emergence of new consumption.
Secondly, the profession of product manager is not an invention of the Internet industry. The first appearance of product manager still comes from P & G nearly 100 years ago. In 1927, P & G gave birth to the first product manager. Don’t jump out and talk about the difference between consumption and Internet product management, because the difference in form is not a difference, but there is no difference in essence. Why Say?
The position name of the product manager of the consumer company was later changed to brand manager. However, the name is never important. Let’s first look at what the brand manager does. Here, for more convenience, I will not take P & G as an example, but Unilever as an example. Unilever’s brand management is divided into BD and BB functions: BD is defined as “having children” : including developing products from scratch, specifically including product market positioning, product function definition, product packaging design, product pricing, core communication strategy, implementation of production line, etc.; BB is defined as “having children” : brand work, advertising, marketing promotion, social media, PR activities and offline promotion activities that are more likely to be understood by the traditional public. In short, P & G changed its invented function of product manager to brand manager, which actually covers “product manager” + “product operation” + “marketing of Internet companies “The work of the three functions.
Then why did P & G, which invented the function of product manager, cancel it and replace it with a brand manager? The work function of brand manager actually includes all the work contents of the previous product manager and increases brand management. For the consumer industry, making good products is the basic skill, and paying attention to R & D is also the basic skill; But it is far from enough to do a good job in products – the core competitiveness of the consumer industry is not products, but brands.
When we analyzed the whole new consumer industry before, we said that although many people came out today to attack the flow thinking, the answer is that products are the most important, but it is not right. We do not mean that products are not important, but products are important, but unfortunately, they are not the core competitiveness of the consumer industry; those who say that products are the key core, mainly Because now many new consumer products are really poor, which is a complete failure. But it should be understood that even if the products are qualified, it does not mean success. The core competitiveness of the consumer industry must be the brand.
This is why we worry about Yuanqi forest: when Tang Binsen answers “what is the key to success”, the answer is “dare to use good raw materials that opponents dare not use”. When Yuanqi forest “uses erythritol and will use better sugar substitutes later” When it comes to too high strategic position, although it is better than those who do not pay attention to products, it is still easy to go astray. Let’s worry that we will fall into a Productism trap.
Think about it. If the word “good material” is used in the context of mobile phones in the consumer electronics industry, what does it mean? Probability is a kind of thinking of heap configuration of hardware: but apple, the world’s most successful mobile phone enterprise, is definitely not the idea of heap configuration; Samsung, the world’s largest mobile phone enterprise, is definitely not the idea of heap configuration; even oppo and vivo are not This is the idea of heap configuration. Who is following the idea of heap configuration?
Similarly, what does the word “use good materials” mean in the context of the beauty and skin care industry? It is probably a kind of thinking of Pile Composition: because Bose composition is good, add a lot of Bose; Because the yeast fermentation extract has good components, a large amount of yeast fermentation extract is added; Because the composition of Centella asiatica is good, I add a lot of Centella asiatica; But obviously, many brands use the same ingredients in this way, but it is not enough to fight Estee Lauder and L’Oreal.
We have to mention the case of Pepsi Cola and Coca Cola again. The blind test of Pepsi Cola products is always better than Coca Cola, but it still can’t shake Coca Cola’s position. Coca Cola must not be the best company in the world to make cola, Starbucks must not be the best company in the world to make coffee, IKEA must not be the best company in the world to make furniture, Hermes must not be the best company to make bags, Hafez must not be the best company to make Shampoo, Budweiser must not be the best company to make beer, Lululemon must not be the most professional company to make yoga clothes, and white clay must not be the best company to make hard soda… This list can be listed indefinitely.
Globally, no matter new or old consumer forces, consumer companies ranking first in almost all categories must not be the best products, and products are only basic skills. These best consumer enterprises are not like the idea that the backward channel is the king of traditional Chinese consumer companies. They also attach great importance to user needs and product R & D. however, the eternal law of the consumer industry is that it is not a R & D driven industry. It is driven by concept (user value understanding), and brand is its only core competitiveness. This is also a different feature from the Internet industry or the game industry. Therefore, even if the same user is the core, the form presented is not the same. The excessive emphasis on products and raw materials by Yuanqi forest seems to ignore the value of the brand, which is our biggest hidden worry.
As a top student representative of new consumption, Yuanqi forest can achieve sales of more than 8 billion in six years, which is absolutely impressive. And its achievement is not dependent on drug traffic bombing, which is even more difficult and valuable.
What is more admirable is: Yuanqi forest’s respect for industry laws, respect for business common sense, and vigilance and rejection of large and empty new concepts. It is those who think the success of vitality forest is nothing special and there is no secret; We think it is the greatest praise to the vitality forest. Because the essence of business must be simple. The pursuit and credulity of the secret script is the core of why most people fail in the end.
On the other hand, because Yuanqi forest is the benchmark of new consumption, we sincerely hope that it can go further and provide some positive guidance to the industry; However, if we blindly agree with it, it is as foolish as refusing to recognize its excellence. There is no perfect enterprise in the world. We put forward the hidden worries we see and hope to help it truly become a truly excellent brand.
Author: Jerry Hou; Source: human centered business review (ID: human centered FIM), reprint has been authorized. Reprint authorization and media business cooperation: Amy (wechat: 13701559246);
join the community: Cherry (micro signal: 15240428449). The new Foodaily food was launched in 2018. The iSEE innovation award is commended and commended in the perspective of business ecology. Through a series of activities, it shows the innovation of the industry, business and consumers, shows China’s innovation to the world, promotes the integration of overseas and local innovation, and empowers China’s new consumption. Here, we look forward to the participation of every food enterprise! (click the picture to view the detailed introduction)

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